Robert has asked (publicly, in fact) to be released from the tyranny of the PDC Resource Card. Before we do that - IF we do that - it's probably worth explaining just what we were thinking back then. It made sense at the time, I'm sure.
Some background first: A goal for PDC'03 was to "increase the surface area" of MSFT attendees as seen by non-MSFT attendees... that's a clunky way of saying that we wanted to make sure that attendees could find & identify the Microsoft folks in the PDC crowd *and* make sure that attendees would feel that they could approach those Microsoft attendees to ask questions, chat things up, and in general "Make The Connection" (nothing to see there, just working in the tagline for the '03 show) for future correspondence, etc.
This was all part of a still larger goal of making the PDC a genuine facet of the Microsoft developer community. (So maybe the Resource Cards were actually just a tactic in the Community strategy.) Anyway, Lenn Pyror, who was my immediate manager at the time (this was before Channel 9) and who really understands the "Community Thing", and Jeff Sandquist (who was on Robert Hess's team at the time) and who also has a solid take on the "Community Thing", and I (who was still learning about the C.T.) spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about Community in the context of the PDC.
SO how to make Microsoft folks stand out in a crowd? <insert wisecrack here> We considered all sorts of ideas, including some from Scoble, who's been to quite a few conferences. Funny hats? Well, maybe, except that since the event is typically held indoors, it might be too much to ask and might actually weird-out some people. How about T-SHIRTS? That's never been done before, right? Despite not being that original, you soon start thinking about logistical issues, like: how many T-shirts should you give to each Microsoft person? Which leads the naturally curious to questions involving hygiene: should we offer guidance re: how often the average Microsoft person should put on a new T-shirt? Every day? Every two days?? Every THREE days??? (Can we even talk to employees about that sort of thing, from a legal/HR-perspective?). Ok, then, enought of that... how about innocuous little lighted pins? Special backpacks? Flags on poles attached to special backpacks?
AND if there are 500 or more Microsoft people there, how do you know WHICH one(s) you want to talk about? After all, if you have some deep Q's about, say, the CLR and garbage collection, you want to be pretty picky about who you talk to, right? And then, if you do have a great discussion, what's the closer? Do you exchange business cards? What if the Microsoft person is supposed to get back to you with some answers? Where does that get written down (and if it's not written down, it's definitely not going to get followed up-on)?
Skipping ahead quite a bit, we settled on the idea of a large card to be inserted into each Microsoft attendee's badge holder. In one fell swoop, we had something that would (i) identify the MSFT attendee and (ii) identify his/her specific team, since the team name would be printed in large font at the top (i.e., "ASP.NET" or "SQL Server") and (iii) have handy URLs and other info printed on 'em for quick reference and (iv) have lots of room on the back for taking notes, writing down email addresses, or jotting down ideas. Each Microsoft attendee would be given a stack of his/her team's cards at the start of the conference, with the idea that s/he would be handing these out left & right (think: surface area). Attendees would want to collect them like baseball cards; back in the office, the Attendee would show off a nice stack of Resoucre Cards to to jealous coworkers, and those notes & URLs and email addresses on the back would also come in handy.
That was the thinking.
Next time, in Part 2: the difference between theory and execution, including an account of our "discussion" with the "Security Team", who had a few pertinent things to say about our plans to cover up critical expanses of The Badgeholder with our stupid Resource Cards.